Will The Public NuSI Critique Take Another Turn? (Lavish Executive Compensation)

Well, last week there was this, and it’s created quite a buzz:


Many have weighed in on both sides and there’s not been much or any critiquing of the takes—on either side—of others who are, at this point, speculating in-part as to what the research will actually show once fully published. I intend to follow the lead on that, as I have another post coming with clarification and observations as to my own thinking…in terms of how many angels can dance on the head of a low-carb pin.

In the meantime, I woke up to a rather shocking revelation this morning, via Anthony Colpo. I do have a side of me that hates to do this. I know both Gary and Peter and on personal levels, like both of them a lot. And I have respect for their drives and other aspects of their characters I know on a personal level. I have defended both against criticism a number of times and I led cheers for NuSI several times. I had a chance to have dinner with Peter once, while NuSI was in the planning. But Anthony lays out facts that are too compelling for me to ignore, and I’ll get to why this bugs me on a personal level after laying out the basic facts. I have deep personal experience with the non-profit world.

NuSI: The ‘Non-Profit’ Organization that Has Netted Gary Taubes & Peter Attia Over $1,800,000

Here’s the portion of Anthony’s post that gives the facts. Unless 2015 was hugely materially different, the $1.8 Million is a reasonable estimate but at any rate, it’s going to come out between $1.3 Million and $1.8 Million, unless it’s more than that! So, keep in mind that at this point we’re dealing with 74% established fact via public tax filings, 26% reasonable estimation.

Here are some links you won’t find on the NuSI website; they’re NuSI’s 990 (tax) forms for the years 2012-2014:




In 2012, Attia, listed as “President” of NuSI, received $272,500. Taubes, listed as “Director” received $85,000. Both claimed to have spent an average of 40 hours per week working for NuSI (see page 7).

In 2013, obviously highly impressed with themselves, they decided they deserved a pay rise. So they petitioned the President and the only full-time Director … uh, that would be themselves … for a pay rise.

Lo and behold, they got it! Yep, in 2013, Peter Attia, who now claimed to be working an average of 75 hours per week, received a hefty $342,500. Taubes, meanwhile was still clocking a claimed 40-hour week but now pulling in $110,000. A Stacy Spector, “VP of Strategy and External Relations” earned a nice $126,798 while a Lacy Stenson, “Director of Operations” took home $120,000.

In 2014, Attia was claiming an average 60 hours per week devoted to NuSI, and pulling in $361,302. Taubes made $129,690, Spector $245,844, and Stenson $144,920. New to the NuSI fold in 2014 were Mark Friedman (“VP of Research”), and Kira Baccari (“VP of Development”) who were paid $212,840 and $264,799, respectively.

So just in the years 2012-2014 alone, Attia and Taubes have paid themselves $976,302 and $324,690, respectively. Assuming a similar rate of pay inflation in the yet-to-be-published 2015 990 form, this means the ‘non-profit’ NuSI has so far garnered Attia and Taubes around $1,360,000 and $470,000, respectively (according to this post at his website, Attia bailed from NuSI in December 2015 to concentrate on his medical practice).

Anthony goes on to characterize his own opinion of this. Mine is largely the same, but I also have direct experience with this.

…As a guy with the principles and political views I hold—that taxation is theft—I certainly do not begrudge money making, profits, freedom of association, and so on. Taubes has been criticized over apparently negotiating a $700,000 advance from his publisher (a for-profit business) for Good Calories, Bad Calories. I disagree with this sort of criticism. He’s bargaining for himself and I have no more concern over that, than I do sports and entertainment stars and celebrities pulling down astounding sums by means of a contract between two entities acting voluntarily, each in the furtherance their own interests, freely associating with one-another. Gary could have gotten $10 or $100 Million and I wouldn’t care.

But, much like publicly traded corporations and very large privately held corporations enjoy shielding from personal liability—and a host of other state, force-backed privileges and protections at your expense—”non-profit” entities enjoy all of those protections and privileges, plus the added benefit of relief from taxation (and costs of compliance, that can go to the millions for large entities).

An aside… I’ve never been a “tax protester,” in spite of holding them to be theft. In legal definition terms, taxation is “a legal taking.” In other words: ‘we’re taking your money, but it’s ok because it’s legal. You can’t take other people’s money, but we can. We’re “representative” and “democratic,” and we promise to give those who support, lobby, and vote for us some of your stuff we take and we’ve held it’s OK for us to take that from you, and give it to them, because we we’ve gone through this circular process.’

I’ve actually had many lawyers over the years argue in my direction that while taxation is a taking, it’s not theft, since theft is an unlawful taking. (See the circular reasoning?) This is easy to point out, since theft or robbery was a well understood moral and ethical concept long before the formalization of legal codes. In fact, theft, robbery, and other objective moral crimes are what gave rise to legal codification in the first place. So, the state exepmting itself and its friends is much like Congress still operates today, passing many laws that would otherwise affect them, but they exempt themselves. [/aside]

I could do yet another aside on the vast complexity of the US tax code and the $Billions spent on compliance, but to make it simple, for-profit corporations are taxed on their own earnings, and their employees are taxed personally on their compensation from the corporation (and if you own or have a big chunk in the corporation you’re taxed twice—unless it’s a pass-through organization… but then we get into aside complexities), but non-profit entities get to skip the first step.

The result is that you get heads of large non-profits, and TV-evangelists, flying around in private jets, staying in Presidential suites, and dining in Michelin 3-star restaurants at corporate expense, generally immune to tax scrutiny (I once had to write a $12,000 check to the IRS because my Hummer H2 was not deemed an appropriate accelerated-depreciation corporate write-off—but it was the only ding in an audit covering three tax years…so there’s that) because it’s so easy for them to justify almost any lavish thing as part of their mission, or contributing to it. And it goes the opposite way. A big donor is going to write a big check. But it’s very easy to justify going out and spending a few hundred thousand or even million—depending on the size of the donation—to “lobby” for it even though you knew it was coming anyway (perhaps for tax purposes).

So, onto my personal experience with “non-profits.” Way back, 1993, I started a business in a bedroom with a few hundred bucks to my name. After squandering $50,000 savings on two failures, this was my last shot and so, that $50K has always been chalked up to tuition, because I did about $250k my first year, and I only had a single employee for about half the year (both of us working from home). My tools of trade were a phone, computer, fax machine, suit of clothes, and a briefcase.

I consulted small companies in debt troubles with suppliers. This was the early 1990s recession. Silicon Valley. It was pretty fat for a few years. I owned the thing outright, had nothing substantial in terms of cost of doing business, and was making a lot of money. I made money by negotiating on behalf of businesses to renegotiate or settle their trade debt…payment terms, cents on the dollar, etc., similar to what Donald Trump proposes we do with the trillions in Treasury Bond obligations.

I got paid on performance. So, if through my efforts, a company objectively saved $10,000 of invoiced liability, then I got $3,500 of that. I had some nice paydays. It’s cool when in one single 2-letter and 3-phone call negotiation, a big company gives a tiny start-up a break, and $65,000 was my fee for a few hours of work, because I saved them $185,000 on a $300,000 bill. I can be very persuasive (there was, however, substantial hours of research, fact gathering, preparation, and plain quiet contemplation in advance of that negotiation).

Then the dot-com bubble hit and there was so much money in Silicon Valley that if a small company was having financial troubles then they they were either trying to sell buggy whips; or it was women, booze, or drugs…in no particular order and often enough, all three. Not ideal clients, not the ones who were simply undercapitalized and had over-extended, because: human. And so my fortunes began to dwindle as the entire valley was rolling in cash. …I noticed that individuals were racking up credit-card debt at alarming rates.

Surely there must be many people who, while having accumulated a lot of debt by being dumb or overly exuberant, nonetheless had serious hardships like unemployment, an asshole spouse, asshole kid, health problems, etc. You can’t make money servicing deadbeats. Nor are you particularly enamored of helping them.

Anyway, so I shifted to a consumer focus in 1998, and began the building. It took five years, until 2003, paying myself $2,000 – $2,500 per month and scrounging every penny to get to where I was finally doing $80K per year personal take, then $120K, and in the last few years, caught $200 – $250K when the company was doing $3 – $3.5 million. At the same time, I was signing $250K worth of paychecks for employees monthly. I also had matching 401K, full-ride family health insurance, and vacation pay.

Here’s where this ties in. During those years of shifting focus to “consumers,” while making less than $50K for myself the first five years, I was faced with non-profit “Credit Counseling” companies as primary competitors. And they did crap for work. Absolute crap, and the failure rate was well over 80%; whereas, we were like 30% (some legitimate hardships never go away, or get worse, and Bankruptcy becomes a better option and we were the first to tell them that).

Get this. Not only did they have a crazy failure rate, they never saved clients a dime. They cost them money, over and above the obligations. They just extended it out, and yea, there was typically a reduction in interest; but in the end, it was rather like saying ‘OK, your 15-year mortgage payment is more than you can handle, so let’s lower the rate, refinance at 30, and your payment drops from $1,500 to $1,000.’ OK, it’s a reasonable Band-Aid, no argument there (if you stick with it long enough to re-fi again, with a $10K mortgage company “hidden fee”), but in the end, the person is going to pay $350,000 total for that $100K house, rather than the $175,000 they’d have paid under the 15-year amortization (I’m wildly winging it on the numbers, just from experience…did not run this through a mortgage calculator…for illustration only).

Now, run that same deal through 20% and plus credit card rates that go up and up each time a hardship debtor is 30 days late (I’ve seen rates as high as 33%). Now, read up on compounding interest, in an adverse sense. Yields on compounding rates are curves with an exponential look to them, and the higher the rate, the more frightening the curve. I could go on and on. You would not believe what a CC obligation looks like at 20% plus compounding interest with a less than 2% of balance minimum payment. I’ve run the numbers. It can amortize out more than 50 years on minimum payments (which decrease, as the balance decreases).

OK, so the CC companies are sharks. On the other hand, nobody is forced to use one. On the other other hand, the “non-profit counselors” exploit this expertly. They lower the rate, lower the payment. In the end, the client pays more total inflation-adjusted dollars (it costs more: really). Well, that’s fine, since they’re taking more time and paying less per installment.

But guess what? The “non-profits” have to get paid, so who pays them? The client? Oh, no, grasshopper. They’re “non-profit.” They charge a monthly administrative service fee (around $30, as I recall) to “clients,” but most of their money came from the opposition. It came from those whom the “non-profit” had promised their “clients” they’d be their representation against (it’s a quasi-legal-dispute situation).

It’s called “fair share.” Has a nice “non-profit” ring to it, right? “Fair.” “Share.” And Kumbaya. Essentially, the credit card companies gave the “non-profits” a “fair share” of all the payments the “non-profits” had negotiated tooth and nail for, to the death, on behalf of their “clients.” Back then? It was about 15%.

Do the math. The better deal you get for your “client,” the less “non-profit” money you make. But, if you really get nitty-gritty with the client, look under the mattresses, etc., you might be able to “counsel” all your harship cases more effectively and craft a “hard-won deal” that really takes those nasty credit-card companies to task. You’ve “counseled” them to pay $100-200 more per month because after all, this is a non-profit and counseling situation, and as such, you, client, must be hiding something and to “come clean” is all part of the healing process. No wonder 80%+ failure rate, after a few years of “fair share.”

That extra $100-200 more per month might benefit a few stalwart clients, of course, but was that the motivation, or was it that in the face of tens to hundreds of thousands of clients, that extra $15-30 per client of “non-profit” “fair share” adds up?

…Back when I was paying myself $50 – 80K, I used to go to conferences as a spy, and rub elbows with some of the heads of the biggest “non-profits,” and I knew what they made since their filings are public. Most of them, about $250-500K “non-profit” salary, on average. Amongst the conference attendees, is was as though I was afflicted with leprosy. ‘You’re a FOR-PROFITZ?’ Add to that, the marketing. Hard to compete against someone lying to people and using the altruist angle.

In contrast…

As a for-profit company, we charged a fee to legitimate-hardship clients: 25% of what we actually save you off the principle amount of obligation when you signed up. In total, the deal was that—given our average client sign-up CC debt of $30,000, with compounding interest rates in the 20%s, late and over-limit fees adding up,—you get out in 2-4 years, debt free, for about 60-70% of what you owe right now, paid in monthly installments into a trust accumulation account over that 2-4 years, and it includes all fees.

Basically: Guy owes $30k. Grows to 35-40 while not paying and stacking up in all ways. In 2-4 years depending on what he can pay monthly, he ends up owing nothing, for a total cost of $20K +/-. About $5k went to us, $15k to the CC companies or their collection agents. Credit is compromised, of course, but since debt/income is a big factor, not as much as you’d think, and no BK. Plus, the client gets the moral satisfaction of doing the best they could and not just punting for a $1,000 BK attorney fee.

(Eventually, a combination of CC companies backed by “non-profit” consumer advocate institutions, lobbying, legislatures passing laws to “protect” the “clients” of “non-profits,” and a sudden influx of letters from AGs—and one “investigation” that cost me a half-million dollars and led to ZERO indictment, legal action, or even fine or settlement, drove me out of business.)

I wonder. Is there a comparative story there in terms of how medical research used to be done, with how it is now, and how NuSI did it?

I reiterate that I don’t begrudge Gary, Peter, or anyone else making lots of shit-tons of money honestly and forthrightly, and gladly cheerlead for anyone doing that. But, there are many ways to analyze this. As you saw from the data Colpo provided, there’s hundreds of thousands going to others primarily in 2013 and 2014, with a big jump and two more Vice Presidents—with titles that look great on Resumes for Dummies—over the space of a year. Why? They’ve produced a single completed study, and word is the current unpublished study was actually completed in latter 2014…and it takes a year-and-fucking-half to put it to paper all the while upwards of a $million for a single year of NuSI salary—with everyone working themselves to the bone, 60-hr-weeks, nights and weekends—goes toward what, exactly?

I. Call. Bullshit!

I am never the sort of person to use the words “I feel betrayed.” First of all, if I ever talk about how I “feel,” it’s filtered through what I think. Betrayal isn’t the right word, principally because I have nothing at stake that rises to that level. But I did use a portion of my blogging, enthusiasm, and yes…trust capital to defend and promote Gary, Peter, and the NuSI initiative. Wasn’t that the gig? Just test it! And gentlemen, you didn’t have it in your hearts to do that, not without being enriched to the tune of 99.5 percentile of compensation. Shame on you.

Even if the most recent study, once published, goes the way of those still picking apart Kevin Hall’s poster presentation, I’m left underwhelmed. One person wrote a decent post countering Hall and it left me wondering how many more angels we can crowd on the head of a pin, and what’s the most appropriate dance music.

This was touted the next “Manhattan Project.” Have people forgotten? Donations were solicited from the public. Hey, if this was between a billionaire philanthropist and Gary and Peter, I’d shut my face. But people are still being admonished to donate to a cause that, so far as we can tell, is lavish and effective only so far as the lavish salaries it bestows upon a few.

Disgusted. Disappointed. I can’t lie about that and while I’m often willing to look the other way while I hope the noise others are making motivate an evolutionary change, there’s only one real judgment I can render to Gary and Peter at this point, and it’s a moral judgment:

What hubris!

This ought be a good object lesson for all. Do profit with your head up, making no apologies, no excuses, or equivocations. You’re going to make a fucking obscene profit—enough to send leftists to their fainting couches with a case of the vapors if you succeed—because you’re going to deliver no-shit phenomenal results. Or you fail, go broke, start the fuck all over.

Instead, Peter treats us to a long 2016 update post, shortly after leaving NuSI with very little to show so far, on just how he’s spending that money.


Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. thhq1 on May 9, 2016 at 17:00

    “These liars warn’t no kings nor dukes, at all, but just low-down humbugs and frauds.”

    Huck Finn

    • Richard Nikoley on May 9, 2016 at 17:08

      The world is ruled primarily by liars, propped up by the constituencies who cheer them. The rulers are supported by dishoest people with talent.

      The biggest part of the scam is the focus upon the former rather than the latter.

      — That’s just me

  2. Tim Steele on May 9, 2016 at 17:49

    I’m about 3/4 of the way through my master’s degree program in biotechnology. The text books and research labs are undoubtedly funded by Big Pharma. Instructions in “Grant Grabbing” has been a big part of the curriculum. You would not believe the grants that are available through the government, and they basically just require one to fill out a form letter and provide annual reports. Very little danger of having to repay the grant, the biggest danger is not getting the grant renewed, but there are lots of tricks for that.

    When you are working in a university, 100% of the total grant funds go directly to the university itself, they then dole out 40% or so to the lab doing the grant work. Grant packages are wildly inflated, and the people who can continually keep the grant money flowing are much prized by the university.

    You don’t need to work for a university, you can start a “foundation” or “institute” and get the same kinds of money, still wildly inflated. NuSI has been working with Boston Children’s Hospital and Stanford University, no doubt taking a huge chunk or the grant money.

    I should think any private investors should demand some accountability of the money spent by NuSI, but more than likely all the paperwork is complete and legal.

    • thhq1 on May 9, 2016 at 18:15

      I worked for some grandmasters of the grant game when I was in grad school. One of the items in our lab was an old Pepsi cooler full of methanol. It had been used for freeze drying experiments for some branch of the guvment, probably military. Once the research was over, the PhD had been awarded and the grant money was gone, no one was responsible for the cooler. It was covered with aluminum foil to keep the methanol from evaporating. I wonder if it’s still there.

    • Tim Steele on May 9, 2016 at 21:58

      A couple of us students have already started putting our heads together for forming an institute just for the purpose of getting grants and using the money to study the things we find interesting. We are talking small potatoes. $10K for a digital microscope, $20K for a portable sequencer, stuff like that. These things can then be used to form the basis of a business. I’ve already been asked, “Why would you want to measure starch?” lol.

      I think I could write some very good papers on RS content of obscure foods, gut testing methodology, etc. Things no one else is studying because it’s not profitable. The money is there, just waiting for someone to ask, ie. http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-15-127.html

      But just amplify this on a massive scale, executive salaries, cars, housing, lab space rental on Stanford grounds. Big Pharma even funds many of these grants, builds research wings onto hospitals and colleges. I can see where the greed would soon overtake the science. The sky is the limit for those “in the know.” It is obvious that NuSI is deep into the grant machine

  3. Nadja on May 9, 2016 at 18:41

    Am I the only person who doesn’t think these salaries are lavish at all? Especially if these guys did work the number of hours they claim they did. In fact, I think Attia and Taubes were paid below what the market would pay for people with education equivalent to theirs.

    Attia is a Stanford educated doctor licensed in NY and CA: I can’t imagine it’s hard for someone with equivalent education and experience to be making mid 6 figures. Taubes is a little more tricky, because despite having an engineering education from Harvard/Stanford, he hasn’t practiced in any technical fields, as far as I know. (And I have no idea what the going level for journalists is. Can’t imagine it’s very high.) But even near-entry level positions at many firms looking for people with engineering degrees from these schools pay an amount similar to what he made at NuSi.

    Now, I’m not saying people with technical degrees from these universities actually *deserve* to be making this sort of money. They *deserve* whatever the job market offers them, and the fact is, this is what they can get on the job market fairly easily.

    I’d be really surprised if the major big donors for NuSi weren’t expecting Attia’s and Taubes’ salaries to be roughly what they were. And it was always clear that the two were going to work there: in fact, for many donors, that was what made the project attractive. Obviously, “non-profit” doesn’t mean they are supposed to work for free. For people with their degrees/experience, there is a huge opportunity cost. During that time, they could have made the same amount of money or more elsewhere. How much below their job market value were they supposed to accept for their salaries to be considered kosher?

    Now, if the major donors do come out and say they are, indeed, shocked, shocked at what happened, then I’ll stand corrected.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 9, 2016 at 21:32

      “Am I the only person who doesn’t think these salaries are lavish at all?”

      I very seriously doubt it.

    • Tim Steele on May 9, 2016 at 22:09

      It would be interesting to see if any of this was from NIH grants which strictly limit salaries, but this is probably a good, common-sense guide to use for any grant work. Attia’s $361,302 seems over-the=top, while Taubes’ $129,690 is not that outrageous.


      Every year beginning 1990, Congress has legislatively mandated a provision limiting the direct salary that an individual may receive under an NIH grant. For FY 2015, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2015 (Public Law 113-235), signed into law on December 16, 2014, restricted the amount of direct salary to Executive Level II of the Federal Executive pay scale. The Executive Level II salary was $183,300. This information was published December 30, 2014 in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts (NOT-OD-15-049).

      For the purposes of the salary limitation, the terms “direct salary,” “salary,” and “institutional base salary” have the same meaning and are exclusive of fringe benefits and facilities and administrative (F&A) expenses, also referred to as indirect costs. An individual’s institutional base salary is the annual compensation that the applicant organization pays for an individual’s appointment, whether that individual’s time is spent on research, teaching, patient care, or other activities. Base salary excludes any income that an individual may be permitted to earn outside of the duties to the applicant organization.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 9, 2016 at 23:29

      My Guess would be that doesn’t apply, Tim, since NuSI is itself a funding outfit and simply co-sponsored the last study.

    • Tim Steele on May 10, 2016 at 10:07

      From the NuSI website:
      “Funding – NuSI is entirely funded by private citizens, foundations, and other nonprofit organizations. The money raised by NuSI is used only for charitable, educational, and/or scientific purposes. NuSI does not pay overhead (indirect costs) on the grants it awards.”

      But they sure seemed to use the money that THEY got for overhead and indirect costs. My guess is that if audited, NuSI would not look so great. But you never know, maybe they have their ducks in a row.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 10:16

      Oh, they surely have their ducks in a row. This is a long-known “loophole” in the non-profit world.

      They learned it from churches.

      You can pay your officers and directors any salary. You can set up a charitable non-profit, hire a bunch of plebs in white coats to solicit donations at supermarkets, and then disburse 5% of it to various charitable causes with their own administrative costs, and the other 95% you collect goes to your “administrative costs.”

      I’m not saying NuSI is even remotely like this. The disappointment is actually different for me, but I’ll save that for another post.

    • Nadja on May 10, 2016 at 11:23

      There are many valid criticisms of NuSi, Attia and Taubes. What I have a hard time believing is the claim some people are making in the comments here and elsewhere on social media: that the two somehow disproportionately enriched themselves by working there, and that thanks to those “lavish” salaries, they can now retire or devote their lives to their extravagant hobbies. My belief is that they would have made an equivalent or greater amount working elsewhere. Again, Attia, for example, a Stanford-trained doctor, a John Hopkins-trained surgeon – if he hadn’t worked at NuSi, he would have made similar money simply practicing medicine.

      Now, obviously, this doesn’t automatically mean their NuSi salaries were justified. That’s a separate discussion. All I’m claiming is that the salaries are not lavish. They are not more than what Attia and Taubes would have made if NuSi had never happened. NuSi was not some sort of a scheme to enrich the two, because from their perspective, I believe, they didn’t come out ahead financially on that project at all, given the opportunity cost of the time they spent working there.

      Anyway, in terms of whether or not the salaries were justified: there’s a lot that may have gone wrong there. If so many people seem upset now, then perhaps there was a lack of transparency. Perhaps Attia and Taubes worked less than they claim they did. If some rules were broken, then – further – people may have been duped into donating under false pretenses. If any such things come to light, then that’s bad.

      Also, obviously, there are people out there who choose to do non-profit or public service work and who forego the compensation they would have otherwise received. They deserve a pat on the back. Such people are effectively donating their time and skills to the cause. But this doesn’t mean that if you don’t do it, you’re automatically a bad person.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 12:35

      “My belief is that they would have made an equivalent or greater amount working elsewhere.”

      Well, the smartest defenders do use the opportunity cost deal, wrong as it is, as I explain here:


      But you do go into the dumb labor theory of value defense:

      “Perhaps Attia and Taubes worked less than they claim they did.”

      Doesn’t matter. These things only come out in defense, in the aftermath of failure.

    • Nadja on May 10, 2016 at 13:10

      Richard, I agree with what you wrote about not caring how hard someone is working. The reason I brought that up is the question of contract. If an organization hires someone with the understanding they will work full time, and they don’t, and they lie about it, then obviously they messed up. I wasn’t saying that if they work this hard then they *deserved* to make money. That, indeed, would have been dumb. I was enumerating hypothetical situations that would, in my mind, warrant criticism. In this case not because of “worked hard” but because of “was hired to do X, said did X, but didn’t.”

  4. thhq on May 9, 2016 at 21:46

    I’m slowly digesting the analogy between leveraged personal finance and leveraged research. And the advantage to irresponsible non profits.

    I worked for a large company which made a variety of paper products. It grew initially with small to medium capital projects, modernizing and expanding existing facilities, and by acquisition. In the early 90’s something snapped. The company essentially mortgaged itself. From that point on, we were a debt-paying machine financed by junk bonds, under ever increasing austerity programs. We continued to grow, but only by merger and acquisition, and the management of the company shifted from production-oriented to accountant-oriented. Profitable operating divisions were sold at fire-sale prices to alleviate the crushing high interest debt. In 2010 we went bankrupt. I threw a little of my 401-K into the stock’s final plunge, believing that it was an aberration, and got back ten cents on the dollar. At least they saved our pension.

    Through all this I was a research scientist. When I started, there was more work than all of us could do. Substantial cost-reduction, modernization, and new product development projects with annualized values in the $500K-$5MM range. But as the business strategy shifted from making goods to making payments the kind of projects we did well were eliminated because they were too small. Those of us that were not RIFed were shifted to less practical, and eventually impossible blue sky ideas.

    I think NuSI was founded on that blue sky concept. The original business that NuSI could have legitimately supported, as Atkins R&D department, was mergered out of existence 10 years ago. While Gary and Peter had vision, and the ability to attract charitable donations to their righteous cause, they had no practical sense. Even if they had definitively proven carb insulin, so what? Like a fireworks show it’s spectacular but afterwards you go home and resume your normal life. There was no idea for a useful product, such as a healthier life or the end of obesity, only the knowledge that your side was right on the best theory for why carbs make us fat.

  5. Gemma on May 9, 2016 at 22:53

    This, from Colpo’s text:

    “Now look: I don’t begrudge people for making money. Money might not buy happiness, but it sure makes life a lot more fun. Heck, overseas flights aren’t free, nor are lightweight carbon-fibre bikes.

    And I certainly don’t begrudge people for making lots of money; more money means more options in life.

    What I do detest are the exorbitant salaries paid to people who run these supposedly non-profit health organizations. You know, the ones devoted to finding a cure for this or that health condition, but after fifty years or more have little to show for their efforts. Certainly not a cure, just a bunch of conferences held in exotic locations, and millions upon millions paid to CEOs who lived the high life, while the poor plebs who donated to them continued to suffer cancer and heart disease just as frequently as ever.”

  6. Martin on May 9, 2016 at 23:41

    I actually think both Taubes and Attia deserve to make good money and I hope they made more than the salaries from NuSi.

    And I agree with you. We should expect more from NuSi.

    The story around the still unpublished paper by Hall et al looks like a joke. The main author seems not to understand what the paper’s title says. The only sensible response to the random interview was by a man not related to NuSi or the study at all.

    The salaries are not the problem. The lack of transparency (what they’ve actually been working on in the past 3 years?) and the poor results produced so far are.

    I also have mixed feelings about the watches…

    • Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 00:02

      “The main author seems not to understand what the paper’s title say.”

      Read that back to yourself.

      What’s more likely, that the author doesn’t understand, or that you have a degree of Dunning-Kruger solipsistic hubris?

      I know where I’d place my bet.

    • Martin on May 10, 2016 at 12:00

      How would you interpret the title and the abstract?

      Well, whichever way it goes now, the way the paper became publicly known is a joke. It’s not the way you do it. And Hall evidently failed to wait till it’s published to announce to the world how he managed to defeat Taubes which in the end is not so sure at all.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 12:58

      Ok, Martin, you’re defending Taubes for being a pussy, refusing to speak out over purported rules?

      Good move. Always makes me laugh how when fanboy is in play, one loses sight of stupid defenses.

      It’s right or wrong. Hall put it out there. Gary has fur between his legs.

      Good for hall. Make Taubes his bitch.

    • Martin on May 10, 2016 at 14:37

      I’m not defending Taubes. I’m in fact very disappointing by how NuSi has operated in the past years with just one (pilot) study seemingly finished and soon to be published and little information on how things were going. I also find it bizarre how the main two players have handled it.

      But I also think that Hall did not play it right. He should have waited till the paper is out, with all the details available. In relation to your other post: are we sure the ketogenic diet contained no LA? Would you trust Hall or any other CICO proponents to do it right? Without the details we just don’t know.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 15:43

      Martin, I just agreed with your point in the other thread so perhaps let it shake out.

      On Hall, this was an international obesity conference, annual. So gotta take the shot and get the info out there. Gary and Peter could have been there. Weren’t. It wasn’t just some YouTube he popped up.

    • LaFrite on May 11, 2016 at 03:11

      Hey Martin,

      I happened to have participated in some conferences where I was presenting posters describing the current state of my research, before any official article was even drafted and submitted to peer-review. It is perfectly OK to talk about the data and results with your peers, even if what you are saying in front of your poster turns out to differ from what you will write in the paper. Same with stuff you present from preliminary study results as a guest speaker during various conferences. Been there, done that and nobody ever complained to me. In general, you share results early, but draw “final” conclusions late in the form of an article in the relevant journal. Until then, anything can be said. It stimulates the debate. I see nothing wrong in Hall’s attitude and even bias. The final paper will of course be more strict in terms of discussion and conclusion.

  7. Antonio on May 10, 2016 at 00:11

    You did the work and received what you deserve. Well done Gary and Peter!
    Now you have the bonus to look at the reaction of the adversary.
    “But.. but… they earned too much money!!”

  8. LaFrite on May 10, 2016 at 01:39

    As the French say, NuSI is like “la montagne qui accouche d’une souris” :D
    It hurt the mountain’s butt so much that it found it justified to reward itself for so little. A sad joke really. Now Attia can totally commit to his new hobby of car-racing … maybe he’ll give a TED talk about it although I doubt it …

  9. Thhq on May 10, 2016 at 07:37

    I’ll post this sad Italian narrative because it’s interesting, and becsuse of what it says about NuSI.


    Keys used the profits from his books to buy a house in Italy and live out the best of the countries. He and his wife were human guinea pigs to find out whether the Med Diet worked. They put themselves in a fishbowl for all the world to see.

    Contrast Attia, Taubes and their hirelings. Attia back to private practice, driving sports cars and no longer pursuing ketosis. Taubes silent for once, farming the busy bookwork out to Teicholz.

    A couple of quitters. Some legacy they’re leaving the world. At least Atkins lived it out to the bitter end.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 07:58

      Yea, I think quitters is in some way an apt description. I was really surprised to learn Peter was no longer at NuSI. Some kind of falling out, or what?

      Some “Manhattan Project.”

      And then I learn about the dough, put it all together, integrated with that non-profit angle and all the altruistic hype, and I’m still pissed, even after sleeping on it. This nonsense is nothing like a business transaction and I find the various defenses laughable. Truly laughable.

  10. Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 08:00

    Anyone have any sources or info as to what Oppenheimer and other top scientists involved in The Manhattan Project were paid?

    • Gemma on May 10, 2016 at 08:06

      You can google it. Only because of my admiration for Richard Feynman, here you are: “His salary as a Manhattan Project group leader: $380 a month”

    • Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 08:34

      Yea, I did so last night and got some data. Just looking to see if there are other sources I might draw from.

      Also, anyone have any suggestions for including other great scientific achievements and what levels of compensation went to the principals involved?

      For a second post on this.

  11. Hap on May 10, 2016 at 08:08

    Taxation may be legal and therefore broadly not theft….given the “consent”. There is no consent implicit or direct for misappropriation of such funds….or unwillingness to be held to account for misuse or failure to achieve advertised services etc. or to to misrepresent regarding said taxes as being sound investments etc. that is theft.

    I still rankle regarding the ruse of state lotteries……and the duplicity of claiming to fight for middle class and poor while playing on emotions and ripping them off.

    And no one is required to give to nusi…….so thank you Richard for disinfecting with sunlight.

  12. Thhq on May 10, 2016 at 08:09

    And don’t expect ANY apologies. They could be construed as evidence of liability. A tort lawyer’s playground. And neither of them wants to be HURT for any financial (or other) damage they may have caused.

  13. Hap on May 10, 2016 at 09:05

    There is recourse at least with product claims and adverse effects. Sort of.

    Government rip offs and their conspirators immune. Where are all state dept emails between SOS and her it person at state who set up private sever and transferred all emails? Oh well…..next.

    Maybe we all get what we deserve?

  14. Nadja on May 10, 2016 at 11:56

    On a note unrelated to the salaries, what I really would like to see happen is for Attia and Taubes to see the results of their own research and to actually change their minds: to admit they were wrong. Then, especially Taubes, should do some sort of a post-mortem on his work in this discipline. I would like to see him analyze what went wrong in his journalistic research. I’d like him to admit that due to zeal and bias, or whatever else, his books didn’t do an honest job of assessing all available evidence. This is what intellectually honest people do. They learn, change their minds, and admit their mistakes. It’s rare, and hard, of course, especially if you’ve made your name arguing for a hypothesis that proves to be wrong. We’ll see.

    • Martin on May 10, 2016 at 12:08

      And you know that he was wrong, right?

    • Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 12:37

      “what I really would like to see happen is for Attia and Taubes to see the results of their own research and to actually change their minds”

      People with automatic high salaries never do that, unless caught in bed with a dead whore, or live boy.

    • Nadja on May 10, 2016 at 12:56

      Martin, I strongly suspect so. I have been very wrong on the subject of diet many times in the past, though, and I have little expertise in this area, so I’m not overly confident in my opinions.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 13:05

      “And you know that he was wrong, right?”

      Oh, Martin. The fanboy is strong in you.

      What do you know? You know he’s right, right?

      Or do you just presume (fanboy).

      You’re so fanboy you can’t even handle objective on a level where someone thinks they may be wrong but defends their compensation.

    • Martin on May 10, 2016 at 14:44

      Richard, you lost 60lb on a LC diet. Is that correct? So it somehow did work for you. It’s not as simple as “he was wrong and should apologize”. Invite Volek to your podcast (or Phinney or Westman or Wolf or Sisson, etc.), do you think they are all idiots and should apologize?

      LC might not work always for all people but if you’re insulin resistant and (pre)diabetic that is your best bet.

      In the meantime Colpo writes in his blog about sugar being not as bad or Coca Cola being a great choice for athletes. Would you bet on that?

    • Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 15:48

      There are many factors to my weight loss, including twice weekly workouts, twice weekly fasts, and dumping processed foods. I didn’t count carbs. It certainly wasn’t ketogenic, lowish carb, so I would be very reluctant to hold that that had a great deal to do with it.

      In terms of sugar, see my Peat post. I’m consuming a pretty decent amount of sugar currently from OJ and milk, quitte loving it.

      I do not believe that carb levels have a damn thing to do with anything, except if way to low or way too high, plus added fat.

    • LaFrite on May 11, 2016 at 05:24


      Have a look at https://thescienceofnutrition.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/good-calories-bad-calories-a-critical-review-chapter-23-the-fattening-carbohydrate-disappears/

      And then, in particular, have a good look at a graph (Fig.7) from a old presentation entitled “Dietary Treatment of Obesity”. It is shown in the blog article I linked. Beautiful isn’t it ? :D

    • LaFrite on May 11, 2016 at 05:25
  15. Richard Nikoley on May 10, 2016 at 12:29

    New post, and another coming tomorrow. Still pissed as ever.



    • Thhq on May 10, 2016 at 12:50

      @richard living in Illionis I learned that no matter how much you sell a Senate seat for, or how many people were killed by improperly licensed truck drivers, or how many live boys you were caught with you NEVER admit guilt. After you’ve served your time you may want to seek public office again. YMMV in Utah.

    • Hap on May 10, 2016 at 19:09

      Listen, we had a President with his member in the mouth of an intern …under the table, while on the phone in the Oval Office with a consultant who was sucking the toes of a whore. That did not seem to make enoufh of a ruckus. Oh yeah…and the President was disbarred for lying to the FBI.

      that same president 30 years later……flying private jets with his 60+ year old buddy to a fantasy island in the Caribbean where everybody having sex with under age girls.

      However, it gets worse….the Mayor of DC smoking crack with prostitutes gets re elected because his life matters….and a senator from Minnesota plays footsie in the bathroom with his stallmate….well that one gets him out.

  16. gab on May 10, 2016 at 16:00

    Richard, in the old days, research scientists were paid whatever universities paid them. Financial incentive wasn’t part of the program. Things have changed. The two guys who figured out how to isolate insulin certainly never held a patent or made money from it. They did it to save lives and perhaps become famous, which they did. The guy who developed penicillin didn’t become filthy rich. Szentgyorgyi who isolated vitamin C from paprika didn’t sell it. He sent a huge shipment to Norway because there was a scurvy epidemic. I’d say if you look at when CEOs started to be paid megabucks, that’s about the same time that scientists started also wanting a share of the pie, so to speak. And it’s about the same time that drug companies started to fund university research. Probably in the 1980s.

    Guys like Taubs and Attia are like snake oil salesmen. I don’t know which of them is worse. Taubs is not a medically trained guy and he never studied physiology or anything so he’s just a good shill. I think all these different claims for this or that diet is easy to make money from because it’s easy to take advantage of a population who has lost its food culture. A couple generations of processed foods which were touted as being better for being convenivent, and you’ve got a few hundred million people who have no idea what to eat or how to cook.

    Now it seems Attia will spend the rest of his life figuring out what he needs to do to live forever. Ironic because he can crash his sportscar and that’ll be the end of it. There’s one thing that is universal: reflexes slow as we age.

  17. Hap on May 10, 2016 at 20:40

    I am not sure how many of you are University professors or know how things work at least in the School of Medicine. the regulations for pharma are very strict and I cannot even get a donut from a pharma rep, a pen, or a calendar… and no reps can make appointments in UC departments. Only thing they can really do is provide grant money for education and it is unrestricted….out of their control. Every thing must be disclosed at the beginning of any lecture….including whether or not you have been payed a royalty or have family members who may have any financial relationship with a private concern. In any conference where CME units are provided, all attendees must fill out forms grading the lecture and lecturers as to their presentation, relevance, materials, and whether bias towards commercial product or not. Some people do get royalties for developing or testing technologies but are compelled to confess. It’s the law. companies my exhibit at meetings but only in specific areas and nothing can be offered, money or in kind items.

    Universities encourage public/private partnerships for technology spinoffs. Universities license their nascent technolgies and small entrepeneurial entities are created in University spaces….to develop technology, most of which is initially funded by foundations or government (NIH, NSF) grants. these grants are extremely hard to obtain. the payoff for grant acceptability is about 1 in 10. the University takes at least 50% for “overhead”..which is bullshit. Harvard takes close to 100%. If technology is spun off within the University and licensed to an outside company, they may use it within the limits of the contract or modify. This money is usually raised by angel investors or partly funded by SBIR grants (Small Business Development Agency). You have to develop a technology to the point of acceptance in the marketplace before Venture funds will be interested. Acceptance means real gross revenues…in the tens of millions. If the technology shows real promise then Pharma will consider acquiring . the developers of the technology will be retained as Science advisors etc and receive royalties as part of the license. Frankly, the process is arduous and not many real scientists are making a killing. Perhaps in Silicon Valley there are some successes, or in Boston. If pharma has acquired and not developed in house, they have to cough up huge sums of money for their safety and clinical trials. It is an ordeal and not for the faint of heart or the undercapitalized.

    today’s scientists, many of them are budding entrepeneurs. I do not see this as bad. the risk is real and the rewards great if you are a genius. If you want to go to a company with your PhD….you go and do what they say to do., for a salary. Snake oil salemen, some quacks, and many reporters are the kinds that make the dough, cuz they are leaders in the sales department. Selling matters.

    Many of you folks think that pharma is directing the research and everybody dances to their tune. I guarantee you that is not the case…. they participate in study design and approve things like language in protocols and informed consent. However, local IRB’s and Radiation Safety Committees are king and get the last word. Companies, they pay for expensive items like imaging, study coordinators, principle investigators, nurses….and on and on….which the University has already invested. Recruiting subjects for pharma research or other technical research is arduous and pharma leaves that to University employees.

    Science is so politicized that there is essentially no difference in the biases and preference introduced by government funding sources and private source….IMHO.

    • Tim Steele on May 10, 2016 at 21:08

      I spent last semester learning the ins and outs of off-label drug use laws from Big Pharma’s perspective. Many ways around the law, but HUGE fines if you get caught. Drug reps are held to the highest standards, but there are some very sneaky tactics you might not even think about unless you studied it. Enlightening!

      The latest trend, though, is Big Pharma forming alliances with major universities, multi-millions/billions spent for drug discovery and clinical trial “partnerships” which is really just a shifting of liability and making university personnel rich beyond their wildest tenure dreams.

      “Gilead Sciences signed a cancer research deal with the Yale School of Medicine that could pay the School $100 million over 10 years. Sanofi-Aventis recently announced a three-year diabetes research deal with an investigator at Columbia University (funding not disclosed) as well as a translational research agreement with Harvard University (funding not disclosed). UCSF in particular has gone on a partnering tear, inking deals with Sanofi-Aventis (financing amount not disclosed), Pfizer (up to $85 million over five years), and Bayer Healthcare (financial terms not disclosed). GlaxoSmithKline signed Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute to a 5 year, $25 million deal. In addition, GlaxoSmithKline announced a plan to sign up 10 academic “superstars” for long-term partnerships to develop new medicines. Their first choice, Prof. Mark Pepys at the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London, colorfully acknowledged this new arrangement by commenting “we all agree that big pharma is useless at discovering new drugs and has to get its ideas from somewhere else.” I’m sure this remark was well received by the company’s leadership group. Over on the more tech side of biotech, Agilent Technologies signed the new Synthetic Biology Institute at UC-Berkeley to a “multiyear, multimillion-dollar commitment”.” http://www.xconomy.com/seattle/2011/05/10/pharma-academic-alliances-what-the-numbers-dont-tell-you/#

    • gab on May 11, 2016 at 05:03

      It is true that research scientists working under the aegis of a university are not legally permitted to financially benefit from their ‘discoveries’ or developments. But this just ain’t true because they can be paid offshore. This has been ‘outed’ for a couple of them over here. They should just work for the drug company or whatever it is.

      My father is a professor emeritus faculty of medicine, pharmacology. I don’t recall that he was ever wined and dined by any drug manufacturer. However, I know he managed to piss some drug companies off big time.

  18. Hap on May 10, 2016 at 20:50

    Perhaps you’d like to see the daily bullshit I get in University emails every day…..where your tax dollars go big time…It’s pretty darn Orwellian. Universities are morphing into reeducation camps.

    Dear campus community,

    A number of posters advertising a student-sponsored event have appeared on campus using offensive language directed at members of the campus community. One such poster included the word “faggotry.” Homophobia – as well as other forms of bias – contradicts our campus’s enduring commitment to inclusive excellence. Let me be clear: Bigotry has no place here or anywhere.

    This type of incident should be a reminder about what connects us: UCI. Every member of our community has chosen to come to UCI to learn and teach and explore and create in an environment that is supportive and affirmative. By expecting equity, supporting diversity and practicing inclusion, each of us can do our part to fortify our collective sense of community.

    This incident is all the more distressing as it occurred a day after the third annual Anteater Equity Games. At noon on Wednesday, May 4, hundreds of staff, students and faculty turned out at Aldrich Park to have fun while learning about and appreciating the richness of our campus diversity, including the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and queer community.

    One way to strengthen the bonds of community is to utilize the programming resources that the LGBT Resource Center sponsors. I myself benefited from Safe Zone training. There are now hundreds of staff and faculty who have completed this training. There is always room for more allies.

    In the meantime, my office remains open to all members of the UCI community to further efforts to promote inclusive excellence.

    Expect equity, support diversity and practice inclusion!

    Douglas M. Haynes, Ph.D.
    Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
    Office of Inclusive Excellence

    • gab on May 11, 2016 at 05:07

      Tim: ‘The latest trend, though, is Big Pharma forming alliances with major universities, multi-millions/billions spent for drug discovery and clinical trial “partnerships” which is really just a shifting of liability and making university personnel rich beyond their wildest tenure dreams.’

      YUP! And whistleblowers are the ones who get shafted when they reveal that a research medical doctor is fudging data.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 11, 2016 at 07:37

      Hap, is that UC Irvine?

  19. Hap on May 11, 2016 at 08:04

    I am afraid so……..Richard. They waste a ton of money. It’s not all bad but some is scary.

    Regarding Tim Steele commentary……..pharma and other technology companies have in effect outsourced innovation to universities since discovery is expensive and low yield for blockbuster products. Much esearch is public funded so innovations can be cherry picked. Also the media and investors swoon over deals with prestigious professors and industry. From my vantage point pharma keeps us going financially. Would die trying to obtain public or on profit funding solely.

    The biggest scam in my estimation are the social scientists who do get a lot of funding and can produce just about any desired result…..which we all know fro Ionnides is 80 percent non reproducible.

  20. Bill STrahan on May 15, 2016 at 22:39

    When my wife and I started a non-profit, we did so for simple reasons. Our dream is that our organization will outlive us. I LOVE the thought of lives continuing to be impacted long after my demise. (I intentionally don’t mention the name or what we do because I’m not trying to use this as an attempt to market)

    We worked with someone who would be CEO from day one (it was originally his dream, we just enabled it), and was the only one taking a salary. He left his full time job for this even fuller-time job, and we wanted him to be well paid. In our case, we knew we would be helping to set up the company and get everything going, but we didn’t take anything from it.

    We have high demands of the few employees (2 of them now), we have more than doubled in size of clients served every year, yet board meetings are in one of the homes of a board member and costs are tightly controlled.

    I’ve seen and been part of some of the best that the non-profit world entails. I’ve also seen abuse of the system for personal gain. It’s like anything else. If there are people involved, it’s flawed from the start and will simply reflect the integrity of the members.

    It would appear that what NuSI stated as its goals is somewhat easily achievable for far less than what they started with for an initial grant. I’m disappointed, but again, it’s back to humans. If you’re dealing with them, prepare to be disappointed in some of them…but also prepare to be amazed at acts of love and compassion from some of them as well.

  21. […] Will The Public NuSI Critique Take Another Turn? (Lavish Executive Compensation) […]

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